previous
next

§ 187. “Bills of Exchange.”

Bills of exchange and promissory notes are a species of mercantile currency and derived from the customs of trading communities and regulated and protected by law. They are otherwise known as “negotiable instruments” which when drawn according to legal forms, signed by the parties intended to be bound, and duly stamped as required by revenue laws, are regarded as incontestable acknowledgments of debts, fixing a precise time for payment and passing from hand to hand in a manner somewhat similar to bank notes.

Negotiable instruments, such as bills of exchange and promissory notes, come under a branch of the law of contracts. It is worth noticing that, strictly speaking, this is the only branch of the law of contracts (with the possible exception of “insurance,” see Note, § 185, supra) which is specifically enumerated in the list of powers conferred on the Federal Parliament. It is true that “marriage” is found in sub-sec. 21, but marriage is something more than a contract; it is a legal status involving an aggregation of rights and duties determined by law. This assignment of one or two isolated classes of contracts to Federal jurisdiction may, when read in conjunction with the maxim expressio unius exclusio alterius, lead to important consequences in the interpretation of the Constitution, when the question at issue is whether a State law relating to contracts is to prevail in regulating a subject assigned to the Federal Parliament, such as banking, insurance, and corporations. This question was discussed in the Citizens' Insurance Co v. Parsons, 7 App. Cas. 96. In the course of the judgment in that case, sustaining the Ontario law of fire insurance contracts, the Privy Council laid stress on the fact that among the subjects assigned to the Dominion Parliament there was no class including, generally, contracts and the rights arising from them, but that one class of contracts was enumerated, namely, “bills of exchange and promissory


  ― 586 ―
notes.” which it would have been unnecessary to specify, if authority over all contracts and the rights arising from them had belonged to the Dominion Parliament. (Note, § 185, supra.)

51 (xvii.) Bankruptcy and insolvency188:

HISTORICAL NOTE.—The Constitution of the United States empowers Congress “to establish uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States.” (Art. I. sec. 8, sub-s. 4.) “Bankruptcy and insolvency” are enumerated in the British North America Act, sec. 91, sub-s. 21. This sub-section was included in the draft Commonwealth Bill of 1891, and afterwards in the Adelaide draft of 1897. At Sydney, a suggestion by both Houses of the New South Wales Parliament, to add “and lunacy,” was negatived. (Conv. Deb., Syd., pp. 1076–7; and see Historical Note to sub-s. 28.)

previous
next